So my contract came yesterday.
The first thing you do with your contract is look at it for a while. You admire the legal-size paper and its lovely off-white color. You rub your thumb over the publisher’s logo on the top. You suspect doing that will never get old.
Then you sit down with a cup of coffee and start reading it. The first time through, you skip to the good parts. The part where your baby will go off into the world. The part where you’ll be getting money for stuff you wrote. You marvel at that for a moment. You suspect this sense of gobsmacked wonder will never get old either.
Then you read the contract in detail, paragraph by paragraph, and struggle through clunky legalese chockful of phrases you recognize only tangentially from all that optimistic research you did when you were querying.* You read it aloud and translate it into natural language on the fly. You make a log of terms you don’t recognize and you run them relentlessly through Google until you’re satisfied you’re not agreeing to tattoo the publisher’s logo on your forehead. (That would get old.)
But then you read the contract again. And one more time. Then you find a pen. And you read it again. You remind yourself that you’ve got this. Your agent has read this contract. You’ve read it. You understand it. Everything is cool. This is a very good thing and you’ve been waiting for the damn thing for the better part of three months.
You put your pen down. This is a Rubicon. This is one of the many small watersheds that remind you that this is real. This sheaf of papers in front of you is all your backside-busting from the past ten years formalized and codified. A physical manifestation of how the game has changed.
So you decide to rub your thumb over the publisher’s logo one more time.
Then you pick up the damn pen.
* In my adult life, I’ve bought three new cars and two houses.** I’m not intimidated by big stacks of paperwork as thick as my graduate seminar paper and packed front to back with complicated syntax designed to confuse and intimidate. But this is different. Can’t quite say how. But it is.
** Not at the same time, though. I sold one in between, but that only meant two reams’ worth of paperwork in one day.